Kelly said, “He is just the sweetest guy ever. He is so passionate about the game and he practices with us and challenges us to play the best of our ability. He is so encouraging and just all around a great person.”
Before his coaching years at Northfield Mount Hermon (NMH), Pacific Ridge, and the Worcester Institute, El Alam played in Fez, Morocco, where he climbed the ranks to play for his City’s Junior team at age 16. As coach, he brings an extensive soccer background and a diverse range of experiences to the team.
Has soccer always been a big part of your life?
It is huge… When people say ‘I’m playing a game,’ everyone knows that game is soccer… Soccer is the game. It is part of the culture. When I was your age, we would have a hole in our schedule—most classes would play outside soccer and come back dripping in sweat for math class an hour later. It’s part of the culture all around the world: Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, you name it.
Do you still play soccer?
I still play, not as much now. As of five years ago, I was playing fifteen times a week. I was in Orange County, Southern California, so I would play for the kids. I was coaching boys Varsity soccer there, and I would play with them around four or five times, then in a league on Sunday for sometimes two games, indoors on Wednesday, and then with friends on Tuesday and Thursday, so I was playing a lot. Now, I sometimes kick around with the girls and sometimes on Wednesday nights here, too.
How is coaching different than playing?
They both have advantages and disadvantages. I love playing because it’s playing. I’d rather play than watch, but as far as coaching, you see more coaching than when you’re not. As I’ve always said, the fish doesn’t know that it’s swimming because it’s all it knows. When I am coaching, I can see. I can see the issues and where we might have a problem. I can see the shape and give good advice. When I am playing, I do see, but I see less. There are advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, if I have the choice to play or watch, not necessarily coach, I would definitely play. I love to play.
What is your favorite soccer team? Do you like the Premier League?
I watch English soccer and [soccer] from Spain. My favorite team has always been Barcelona because of their style of play. Over the years, Liverpool has always been one of my favorites…Ajax from Holland is one of my favorites because it’s composed of young players. They don’t buy players, they build them up through the academy and produce a lot of good talents. They went to the finals last year and won the championship. But [as for] the style of play, [I like] Barcelona because that’s how I like to play: I don’t hold the ball. I hold it for one to two seconds and then keep it moving.
Which country do you root for in the World Cup?
I was rooting for Morocco because they had an unbelievable team last World Cup, but aside from that, my favorite style of play is Brazil. It resembles Barcelona in the sense that there is a lot of creativity. Soccer is a very fluid game. In football, you teach some moves and defenders have their coach, in soccer, it is a very fluid game. No move has ever been the same, you personalize it and have to allow for creativity. It doesn’t mean that there are not key ideas, but you have the freedom to utilize your style.
What is it like coaching soccer at Andover?
I like the high school age group better. It’s actually one of my highlights at the school to be with the girls on Graves [Field]. It is a disciplined team, yet they know how to have fun, so we laugh a lot and goof around a lot, but are also serious. I think one thing that stands out about this team is that they can be so goofy, and funny and singing on the bus, but when they are on the field, they are absolutely focused. It is very hard to strike for young people, adults don’t know how to manage that thing. Once the game is over, they are back to being goofy and silly, and as I said, it’s really hard to do and our players do it well. It’s very unique, and it’s healthy.
How are you feeling about the team this season?
[W]e are at a very good place this season, in the sense that we don’t have players who we have already lost to the season. In previous years, like last year, we had two players who couldn’t play at all…. We have an unbelievable team with a lot of talent, and for the most part we are utilizing our talents the right way. We take care of the team—they are not burnt out or exhausted. Sometimes when we need to, we give them time off, we vary what we do. Sometimes we talk about how we support one another versus running. We are doing extremely well from a number standpoint, and generally, we are extremely healthy so far… Our goal is to go all the way, because we have some of the best talent, I believe, in New England.